Breaking cultural captivity: How to Mission

Breaking cultural captivity:

How to Mission

BMS World Mission partners with the World Church to grow God’s kingdom.

“We don’t know how to do that. But BMS does,” Tony, from a Baptist church in Shropshire, tells me. Tony and I are at “How to Mission”, a BMS conference, chatting about the need Tony’s so clearly identified: “to engage in cross-cultural mission with the people we find around us.” It’s a need that’s more pertinent than ever.

A man speaking with his hands up.
BMS’ key speakers brought together a wealth of knowledge from Asia and the Middle East to Latin America and Britain.
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It’s a pivotal time for both UK Baptist churches and BMS as we seek to grapple with globalisation, new technologies, immigration and increasing secularism. Keeping abreast of cultural change, BMS is moving towards a new strategy for 2021 and has just announced a partnership with Spurgeon’s College to deliver an academic course on mission. Our How to Mission conference (8-10 July), where I met Tony, was part of this ethos, sharing the knowledge BMS has gleaned from 225 years of mission.

As UK churches are realising, cross-cultural mission is not just relevant when going overseas. As Prabhu Singh, Principal of the South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies explained in his insightful two-part lecture, a young person in the UK and a young person in southern India might share more in common than with their own families, despite being so far apart, due to the rise of new technologies and globalisation.

A mother and her son sitting on a doorstep smiling and holding a football in Uganda.

If you’d like to know more about how your church can get involved with helping refugees, check out our Leader’s guide for South Sudan’s Conflict Survivors.

Prabhu has been leading the largest body of research into Christian movements in India, where the church is the fastest growing in the world even in the face of alarming religious animosity. He also revealed that nearly 90 per cent of new believers in India are actively engaged in evangelism, and that those who had come to Christ primarily did so through a friend, family or mission worker. It’s a challenge to UK churches, that we need to not only preach the gospel in words but also in actions, building relationships along the way.

Themes like solidarity with the marginalised and forgiving your enemies surfaced repeatedly, this being a significant theme for speaker Elie Haddad, President of BMS-partner the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary. On Monday, he shares with us how, in his home country of Lebanon, people pushed aside their historic animosity when Syrian refugees arrived on their doorstep.

As churches began to take action and become more missional rather than internally focussed, they were unified and are now growing exponentially.

A man smiling at the camera with a bush in the background
Refugees living in Bristol arrived on How to Mission delegate Richard Skinner’s doorstep and now his congregation regularly welcomes refugees into the church.

Welcoming in those with different cultures, stories and struggles involves dismantling our own sense of what is culturally comfortable. Our cultural boundaries were challenged with Loun Ling Lee and Kang-San Tan diving into theological thinking from Asia, Latin America and Africa. Michele Mahon, a BMS youth worker in Peru, also led us in sung worship in styles from all over the world.

“We are all culturally captive. I came here to be pushed out of my cultural comfort zone,” Susan, a Baptist minister in Wales, says enthusiastically.

A woman speaking and smiling
Michele Mahon led us in worship with songs from the UK, Nigeria and songs in Spanish.

With all this grounding, Deborah Hancox, a consultant to Christian development organisations, led us on how to put this missional thinking into action on Wednesday: beginning with organisations like BMS, which is perhaps the very first of the Christian development organisations, and then spreading into our UK church congregations.

And on the final day as we leave BMS’ Mission Training and Hospitality Centre in Birmingham, there’s an excitement in the air. From mission workers in Peru to members of UK Baptist churches, God was re-commissioning us and sending us out into all four corners of the world.

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Words by Melanie Webb.